Those of us who are in the dating trenches know that having a successful date can be a real battle. But finding the right person to date isn't the only challenge. You have to declare war on all your bad habits and put your best foot forward to impress the person you're taking out.
For the lonely heart, it's critical to look and feel your best. Surveys show that first impressions are key to a successful date -- a good number of daters decide within half an hour whether they'll see the person again [source: It's Just Lunch]. One misstep -- whether you smell like smoke because you had a quick cigarette to calm your nerves, or you accidentally spill ketchup down your shirt -- and you might not get another chance.
No matter how hard you try, even the bravest dating warrior can slip up during a date. Here are some weapons to help you stay fresh during your date and keep the entire evening on a high note.
Ancient Chinese military general Sun Tzu said, "Anciently the skilful warriors first made themselves invincible and awaited the enemy's moment of vulnerability" [source: Sun Tzu]. Like a true warrior, you must make yourself invincible before your date, which means preparing to look your best.
Before you even leave the house, make sure your body is clean and odor-free. Although body odor is a turnoff for both men and women, women can be particularly sensitive at detecting it [source: Wilbert]. Shower if you need to, and dry your body completely, because foul-smelling bacteria like to reproduce in dark, damp places, such as armpits, the groin and covered feet. Use body powder to keep these areas dry.
Apply deodorant to prevent the onset of unwanted body odor. If you sweat, you might want to use an antiperspirant, as well. Finally, cologne or body spray can add a layer of inviting scent to your body.
Food stuck in your teeth can decay and cause bad breath, so it's imperative to brush and floss your teeth before you leave the house. Make sure you take enough time to clean your pearly whites and tongue thoroughly to kill all the germs.
You should also avoid smoking before your date. Smoking can not only give you yellow teeth and bad breath, but smoke also seeps into your clothing and hair, giving off unpleasant odors.
You want to make sure you wear the right uniform. Make the effort to look nice for your date. Choose your attire carefully and make sure it's not ripped, stained or missing buttons -- including your socks and underwear. Always wear a clean undershirt because it absorbs sweat and odor, keeping it away from both your body and your outer shirt. Wear socks to absorb foot sweat and prevent odor-causing bacteria. If you have problems with foot odor, consider putting powder or absorbent inserts in your shoes to combat it.
Also, be sure to dress properly for the weather and occasion. Nothing's more embarrassing than shivering in front of your date or being turned away from a club because you're wearing tennis shoes.
Breath fresheners are easily portable and will mask odors in your mouth. Sugarless gum will help stimulate saliva production. Saliva is a key factor in helping the body rid itself of odor.
Some personal care companies have also started manufacturing disposable toothbrushes. A product like the Colgate Wisp brush, a tiny brush that helps dislodge food particles while freshening your breath, is a discreet way to clean your mouth on the fly.
When all else fails, use your secret weapon: water. Simply swishing water around in your mouth will help remove unwanted food from in between your teeth and prevent smells from happening before they start.
When you're in the trenches, you never know what might attack you -- and it could be the very food you eat. By all means, pay attention to what you put into your mouth. Strong-smelling foods contain fat-soluble, aromatic volatile organic compounds that manifest themselves when they break apart in your blood or are metabolized. Garlic and onions are two of these culprits, but broccoli, asparagus and cabbage are also capable of wreaking havoc on your body. Some spices, like cumin, also contain these compounds, which is why Indian curries and Mexican food can cause bad breath as well as funky body odor.
Even if you choose your food wisely, you still have to get it in your mouth. Watch out for foods with a lot of sauce or grease because they can easily spill and wind up on your clothing. Eat carefully and watch how large your bites are. Too big, and they may end up in your lap rather than in your mouth.
If you can't make it through a meal without your food attacking you, think about carrying a portable stain remover. Stain remover pens and wipes can clean up messy clothes in a jiffy and take away the reminder that you were momentarily a slob.
One final weapon in your arsenal should be a handkerchief or a pocket pack of facial tissue. This weapon can help you in several ways:
- As a substitute or extra napkin, in case you drop yours on the floor or need an additional one
- Instant mop for spilled beverages
- Cleaning device for mucus-filled nostrils
During your date, you want to stay as neat as possible, and sometimes a flimsy restaurant napkin just doesn't cut (or clean up) the mustard. Having a handkerchief or tissue on hand will help you in a pinch if food gets out of control. Besides, accidents happen, and if you or your date accidentally spills a beverage, whipping out your handkerchief will help mop it up -- hopefully before it causes any damage.
Tissues also come in handy in case your nose has visible mucus in it. One of the worst date conversations is when she holds a tissue in your direction and says, "You need a Kleenex." Prevent this date killer by having your own stash of facial tissues and using them -- especially if you have a runny or stuffed-up nose.
These tools can help you win the dating war. Read on for other tips to stay fresh on a date.
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- American Dental Association. "What You Should Know About Bad Breath." January 2003. (March 21, 2011)http://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/patient_22.pdf
- American Dental Hygienists' Association. "Want Some Life Saving Advice? Ask Your Dental Hygienist About Understanding and Eliminating Bad Breath." July 16, 2010. (March 21, 2011) http://www.adha.org/downloads/factsheets/bad_breath.pdf
- Chang, Louise, MD. "Slideshow: Surprising Ways Smoking Affects Your Looks and Life." WebMD. Aug. 13, 2010. (March 21, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/slideshow-ways-smoking-affects-looks
- Colgate-Palmolive Company. "Colgate Wisp FAQs." (March 21, 2011)http://www.colgatewisp.com/wisp/FAQ
- Hosking, Wes. "Smoke gets in the girls' ayes." Herald Sun. Feb. 11, 2011. (March 21, 2011)http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/smoke-gets-in-the-girls-ayes/story-fn6bfkm6-1226003966415
- It's Just Lunch. "'It's Just Lunch' and American Way In Flight Magazine Reveal That When It Comes to Dating, There's Little Time To Make a Good Impression." Sept. 14, 2009. (March 21, 2011)http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/09/14/idUS154429+14-Sep-2009+PRN20090914
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Bad Breath." June 19, 2010. (March 21, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bad-breath/DS00025
- Shah, Riddhi. "Why do some foods make us smell funny?" Salon Media Group. June 23, 2010. (March 21, 2011) http://www.salon.com/food/feature/2010/06/23/foods_that_make_you_smell_funny
- Tzu, Sun. Samuel B. Griffith, translator. "The Art of War. Oxford University Press. 1963. Wilbert, Caroline. "Women Better at Sniffing Out Body Odor." WebMD.com. April 7, 2009. (March 21, 2011) http://women.webmd.com/news/20090407/women-better-sniffing-body-odor